So, you say, an alienated guy like me should be younger? About nineteen? Maybe younger than that? This should be for young adults, you say? Something about an alienated kid coming to terms with the crazy world we live in? Something for high school, or middle school kids? I wish.
But that’s the way it is for us manic depressive types. We get to be teenagers. And then we get to be adults – and yet, we still act like teenagers. Our contemporaries do all of these adult things, and we don’t understand how they manage to go about it, or why. We still think, and talk, and behave like teenagers – and why not? Seems natural enough.
Until, one day, a psychiatrist tells us why.
I wanted my family to be the first to know. I started with my sister.
“I have a bipolar illness,” I said.
“Pshshsh,” she said.
My sister is extremely verbal, so I knew she didn’t like this news. She was hardly verbalizing at all.
“I’ve been diagnosed by some good doctors.”
I told her the name of the hospital.
“I don’t believe it,” she said. “It’s like every other scheme you come up with.”
“That’s the point,” I said. “Those schemes are part of the illness. It’s inherited,” I said. “I think you have a little bit of it too.”
I suggested she schedule a complete psychiatric evaluation.
“You know what I think?” she said. “If you had a more successful career –”
I slammed the fucking phone down. I like to slam it hard. I always have. I like to slam it so hard that the bell inside rings. It’s an entirely different ring from the ring you get when you get a call. This one lingers. It coincides with brain noise. Luckily, I didn’t hurt myself. I’ve drawn my own blood before, slamming the phone this way.
Naturally, I know it’s going to ring again. She’s going to call back.
I thought the medication was going to make me okay. I thought this was supposed to be a whole new life. Me – the new me – calm and rational. They didn’t tell me the cure would be so brief, so fleeting as this.
This reminds me of the time…. Yes, this reminds me of the time…. Believe me, I know you do not want to hear about the time that dot dot dot. But you’re dealing with bipolar disorder here. We bipolars are always reminding people of the times that, dot dot dot. Be patient. Be nice. Sometimes, all we’ve got is those endless…dot dot dots.
It was the time in college that I lay in my bed in my room and talked to Alexandra for two hours, running up my long distance bill – a bill my parents would have to pay. Alexandra and I were on the annual staff together in high school. She was going to be a psychologist. I was depressed, and I was damn bent on getting her that way too.
I held my pecker in my hand the whole time. Not that I held these urges for Alexandra. Well, marginally, perhaps. I just was alone, and I liked to hold it. I think she might have sensed my posture. She was disgusted with me.
“Somebody’s been calling me,” I said. “And I can’t concentrate.”
I told her about the calls I had been getting. I told her about the test that I had the next day. I told her about my relationship with my therapist. I told her about this sour relationship that had developed between one of my roommates and me. I told her about this professor I had – all the mistreatment. I complained about my Mom and Dad. I went on and on and on…dot…dot…dot.
She planned to become a client-centered therapist, much like the one I was seeing. So she practiced her reflective listening skills. She was the perfect prey for my sucky, hostile angst.
“With all this going on,” I said. “There’s no way I can study for that test tomorrow,” I said.
“You feel overwhelmed,” she said.
“I guess so,” I said.
My voice didn’t sound so hot. I whined. I almost cried. You can imagine.
I sat up in bed and grabbed the Big Blue Budda. The Big Blue Budda was a lovely ceramic bong, in dark blue, shaped like, yes, Budda.
“You know,” she said. “I can only talk for five more minutes.”
“Why? It’s two hours earlier there,” I said. It was ten past one, Eastern Standard Time.
“I need my sleep.”
The furnace, two floors below, clicked, and then roared. Warm air began to pour from the vent. I reached my fingers in the baggie, crumbled some pot, pinched a bit, and filled the bowl.
“I’m going to fail this test,” I said. “Maybe I should just skip it.”
There was a bit of silence.
“Could you get up in the morning and study?” she asked.
I lit the dope. The dirty bong water bubbled. I got a good hit. I nearly coughed, but I gasped, and contained it.
I blew out the smoke.
“I don’t know if I can get up. One of my problems is, I can’t sleep.”
She squeaked. She was pissed, but she was a future therapist, so she kept her cool.
This went on for awhile, but it did end, leaving me alone and awake late with The Big Blue Budda.
My mystery caller rang me up at half past two.
“How are you doing tonight?” she asked.
“Who is this?”
Damn, this was the story of my life. If I really liked a girl, I was too shy to speak. If a girl really liked me, she was a dog. And then, now, as had been the case once in junior high, there was a mystery girl – a nameless caller. How she loved to tease me! Why me? Who was she?
I imagined who it could be. It could be this baby-faced girl I saw on campus, the aloof one with short black hair. Guys said she was loose. We had passed each other on the quad, and in front of the humanities building. Pfft. She didn’t know I existed. It wasn’t her, but in a situation like this, one must put a face with a voice.
“You know me,” she said.
“I don’t know you,” I said. “Who are you? Why won’t you tell me?”
She giggled, this middle-of-the-night mystery tease.
And that was it. The calls were short. She giggled and said a few words. I questioned her identity and stayed awake all night.
With some difficulty, I made it to the test. I wrote bullshit about Romantic poetry. Then, I went and told the professor about my sleeping problems. I told him that I was in therapy for personal problems. I explained that I wasn’t able to prepare for that test, and that I was already behind on the reading for the next one.
He wasn’t impressed. He gave me a D. It was a fair grade.
That afternoon, I went to my therapist. I told him about Alexandra, my roommate the asshole, my inability to sleep, the test, and my conversation with the professor.
Was my therapist impressed?
It was his goddamn job to be, but he wasn’t. He did, right there in our session, what I was having so much trouble doing at night. He fell asleep.
I tried to wake him.
I jumped from one sad story to the next. Nothing worked. He slouched in the chair and slept. Sometimes an eyelid would flutter. Sometimes he would move in order to slouch in a more relaxed position. But when he was out, he was out.
Until the end of the session. Then he checked his watch and stood. Time was up.
That’s when I told him about the sexy mystery caller.
My therapist paid attention and smiled. He thought the mystery caller was great. He said he wished he had one.
I told you this was one of those dot dot dot situations.
Dot dot dot.
My sister did call back. She said she just wanted to say one thing. She wanted to tell me that, with me, it was just one obsession after another. First it was therapy, then EST, then Amway. There was the writing, the business ideas, the basement full of unsold, self-published books, the loans, the mail order business, the hassles, the arguments, the spur-of-the-moment trips to England, Italy, Mexico, and New Orleans, the tennis, the weightlifting, the cars, the whacko women, all the whacko women, the graduate schools….
She mentioned the drinking, the pot smoking, the begging for money, the fines, the lawyer fees, the yoga, the doctors, the weird friends, and the politics.
She yapped at me a mile a minute.
“This manic depressive business is just another obsession,” she said. “And that’s why nobody’s going to buy into this one either.”
“You’re the one who’s obsessing,” I said. “It’s denial. You know we’ve got a sick family, and you want to blame me for it all. Let me tell you something,” I said. “You’re a manic depressive too. And so is Mom, and half the other people in our family. And we all know Dad was.”
Then she hung up.
It’s a good thing my brother is in the retail business. He can get telephones wholesale. In our family, phones don’t last long. We use them a lot, and we use them hard.
So that’s the way this medicine works. Pretty well, to a point. Then, when somebody says it takes two to tango, the medication doesn’t always win.
Depression is a funny thing. All these racing thoughts. They used to be energy, emotion, the lively stuff of life itself. Now, it’s terror. Round and round they goes, where they stops, nobody knows.